There were many times of year, and this was definitely one of them. Especially in those days. The Local Radio Station (KLRS) was hosting a contest, and Trent wanted to be involved. Really involved.
The contest was related to the radio station’s annual tradition of voting for one’s favorite new albums of the year, a fairly common radio activity. The voters would be entered into a drawing to win a copy of the radio station’s own voted-upon album of tracks compiled from the voted-upon favorite new artists from the last year, among other things. Among the other things was a trip for two to New York City to watch some of the favorite new artists from the last year’s list of favorites, performing in an intimate setting. It was the kind of intimate NYC setting where one could still smoke cigarettes and wear sunglasses at night and wear leather jackets and pass people on the street who were selling fake designer crap and you could smoke your cigarettes and wear sunglasses and leather jackets and not give a shit about them. At least that was what Trent pictured in his mind. Trent had never been to New York City, and he had never won a contest.
It took him about two hours to scrutinize the list of artists, carefully building a profile for each one, which often involved researching the artist on the internet and listening to sample tracks, sometimes falling in love with every single female lead singer, and then after picking about 24 of the 10 possible votes, he was forced to narrow down the list. Another hour gone by, he had it down to 15. Those last pesky few, the sap fingers. The obvious tie-breaker, to Trent, was the inclusion of a cow-bell, but when that test failed, he went to the old reliable “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Seeing as how there was only a mildly black cat to play against, Trent did reasonably well. The list of ten was soon complete.
But then came the tricky part. He was required to enter his name and email address on the website, so that in the case that he actually won the contest, the radio station could contact him. He felt the instant throbbing pressure increase in his left temple that was a clear indicator of a major stress event. Trent panicked and entered a fake name, even though he was not a felon or pedophile or anything. Why did he do it? Because he thought it was funny. He was extremely stoned, and it was hilarious. They had his email address, he figured, so why not have some fun?
About two weeks later he found out why not to have fun. It was a Tuesday morning, and the Local Radio Station called to notify him that he had won the contest.
“Hi, is this Trent?”
“Yeah, hey this is Tr… uh, yeah, this is him.”
“Hi Trent, this is KLRS, and we’re so excited to let you know that YOU WON! You and a friend are going to New York City and……”
On and on the radio station guy went about the various prizes he had won, but Trent was already thinking about who he was going to take to NYC. Should he take a buddy? Or should he take a lady? He thought favorably about smoking cigarettes and wearing sunglasses with a pretty girl in New York, walking arm-in-arm and puffing like a steam engine and not giving a shit about anything on their way to the intimate studio to see his favorite artists perform a personal concert, with all the specialized musical equipment that would be required for the artists to perform in such an intimate setting, and all of the artists smoking cigarettes together outside the studio when he and his pretty lady strolled up, not giving a shit about anything except for wearing their fake designer sunglasses that they had picked up on the way, and in “casually running into” the band who was outside wearing their leather jackets and smoking cigarettes and all kinds of stuff, Trent would be the guy with more cigarettes that could help out the drummer, who had left his inside, and the conversation was amazing, incredibly witty and dense on both sides, and with his beauty beside him, Trent felt a strong connection with these people. They would be fast friends, and he would probably see them perform several times all over the country at not-so-intimate settings, and he would, of course, be invited backstage with them, and they would have such great times together…
“So, is your name really ‘Trent “How ‘Bout Those Apples?” MacBillicutty Mormon Tabernacle Chronic’?” the radio station guy was reading slowly, deliberately, cadenced, as if he wanted Trent to really listen to what he was reading. His voice was strained, forcing back laughter, and he left a precipitous pause to let it sink in…
“What? I mean, sorry…what’s that?” Trent chuckled through his nose, embarrassed.
“Is that your real name? The name on your ID?” The DJ now sounded comradely, like he was in on the joke but still going through the motions. Trent imagined that this bit would be a broadcast-worthy sound bite for the on-air ads, but he was still unsure of which character he should play. He decided to go with the John Wayne.
“No, hell no, of course not. I was just goofing around. My real name is Trent Stricken.”
“Well I’ve got some bad news then I’m afraid… I think we can only give the tickets to the name registered in our database. Company policy.”
“What!? Wait, are you kidding?!” Fucking stupid John Wayne bravado.
“No, I’m afraid not. That’s the policy. Because if you try to pick up the tickets you need to use your ID, and the tickets are already printed out with the name you entered on the website.”
“What!? No, that can’t be right! Are you serious?! I mean, I won the contest didn’t I?” He was still using a John Wayne voice in his own head.
“Well yes, but no, I’m sorry…”
“This has to be a joke, right? I mean, you know that’s not a real name, right?”
“Well yeah, but I’m serious-- I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it. I’m so sorry! I don’t know. I’ve never dealt with this before. I guess you could try to change your name and then get a new ID or something, or…”
Trent was confused and furious, but he was so confused that he couldn’t be furious, and he was so furious that he couldn’t be confused, so he remained simultaneously confused and furious for quite some time, a homeostatic confused rage squared and then square-rooted, repeated ad infinitum, with glaring ticks of mental clarity interjected periodically for just long enough that he could almost rationalize the situation, but before he could really get a grasp on it, he again became overwhelmed by confusion and anger.
An undefined period of time passed. Trent was looking at a picture of a snowy residential street in Montreal that someone had left in his rented room. There were a few inches of snow on the cars in the picture, which were parked in front of a series of snow-covered Brownstones and sparse hardwood trees, shot at such an angle that the street seemed to never end as the resolution faded into the snowy backdrop. Trent had never been to Montreal either, but it looked nice, peaceful. He imagined similar streets in New York City in the winter, the snow falling heavy and wet, with big bloated flakes that floated down from the bruised yellow sky and threatened to extinguish their carefully protected cigarettes.
This snow was the only thing that could possibly shut The City up, and he thought of how their footprints would have looked on the snowy sidewalk, two pairs of animal tracks making obvious bipedal progress, his indentations longer and broader and further spread apart, while hers gave the impression of someone just trying to keep up with the longer strides of her counterpart, the snow not quite crunched down as much in her tracks and therefore not nearly as sloppy upon the exit of her daintily booted feet, and that crunching that Trent heard in his head, the crunching sound that only fresh wet snow from a bruised yellow sky can produce, eventually faded and transformed into the pulsing sound of a ring tone, the kind one hears when the person at the other end of the line has ended the call and moved on with their day.